Aw: Re: [INDOLOGY] Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton

George Thompson gthomgt at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 8 17:41:05 UTC 2011

Hello all,

I learned the distinction between etymology & usage nearly 30 years ago --
from Frits Staal.  And since I am a Vedicist I very quickly learned to
distinguish between homonymy and polysemy, because there is a long
literature about polysemy in the Rgveda [where polysemy flourishes like
lotus leaves].  And as a historical linguist, I am very accustomed to the
fact that the meanings of words are always in motion.  But I have never
encountered the idea that when a word changes its meaning it becomes a
homonym of itself.

As Domink suggests, we are stepping into Alice in Wonderland territory here
[i.e., Humpty Dumpty's curious word usage] .

Yes, I know the history of the word 'yoga.'  It has had a long, rich life
[even before it got to India].

I think I understand what Singleton is doing.  Because of the very rich
polysemy of the word over 3000 years of its life in India, people are easily
confused [as years of teaching have shown me, and as Singleton's book nicely
illustrates].  He wants to extinguish the polysemy, by replicating dozens of
little homomyns.  But I don't think that this move frees us from the
complexity of the issue.

Time to run off to my next class.


On Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 12:04 PM, Philipp Maas <phmaas at> wrote:

>  Dear George,
> could it be that your notion of homonymy is heavily based on etymological
> considerations? Etymology is, however, not the decisive criterion to answer
> the difficult question of how to define homonymy in contrast to polysemy.
> This problem is briefly discussed in Hadumod Bußmann: Lexikon der
> Sprachwissenschaft. Zweite, völlig neu bearbeitete Auflage. Stuttgart 1990
> (Kröners Taschenausgabe 452), p. 314 a-b, s.v. Homonymie and p. 593 a-b,
> s.v. Polysemie. (An English translation of this work is available under the
> title “Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics”.)
> With best regards,
> Philipp
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Philipp Maas
> Universität Wien
> Institut für Südasien-, Tibet, und Buddhismuskunde
> Bereich Südasienkunde
> Uni-Campus AAKH
> Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.1
> 1090 Wien
> Austria

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